In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) in London & UK

Of the many fertility treatments and forms of assisted reproduction available, IVF has become the most popular and prominent. Although still surrounded by controversy even today, IVF has become one of the first options for couples facing infertility because of its successes. The process is only ever improving and becoming more cost efficient and successful. Read on for more information.

What is IVF?

IVF stands for "In vitro fertilisation". Vitro, meaning "glass", refers to the artificial nature of the fertilisation procedure leading to the common coined term "test tube baby". Many early examples of in vitro procedures used glass tubes, although now the term "vitro" is used for any procedure which takes place outside of the body. During the IVF procedure artificial fertilisation actually takes place in a plastic petri dish and not, as is commonly thought, in a glass tube.

In basic terms, a conventional IVF procedure involves eggs being directly extracted from the follicles and mixed with the collected sperm in a petri dish. These eggs are then incubated to form a fertilised embryo. This embryo will be implanted back into the uterus where it will hopefully implant itself in the womb, resulting in pregnancy.

Where is IVF done?

There are 85 HFEA clinics in the UK including many in London. 52 of these clinics will see you if you are eligible for support from the NHS. You may wish to check with clinics nearby as the price may vary dramatically, private clinics will be considerably more expensive, however you will not have to worry about waiting lists. You will be referred to one of these clinics by your GP after you or your partner is diagnosed as being infertile or if you are part of a same sex couple, and other alternatives such as artificial insemination have been ruled out.

There may be limitations depending on the country you live in on the legality of the procedure, expense, and also due to the length of time for the procedure to be successful (you may find that it is necessary to try 2 or 3 cycles of IVF). However, the development of intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), a ground breaking step forward in this field, means that couples with low fertility are more likely to be able to conceive than ever before. IVF is constantly evolving, with success rates rising due to more and more refinements to the process that yield ever improving results.

Caveats of IVF

Although IVF has opened opportunities to couples who would not otherwise be able to conceive, there are still risks. Just like in natural pregnancy, age and the quality of sperm and embryos will affect the likelihood of a successful pregnancy, as well as complications with the procedure itself. Due to its expense and relatively low success rate, IVF is often not used until alternative methods have been explored.

IVF is also a topic of strong religious, ethical, and legal debate, Different people react to the idea of IVF in different ways. Often multiple fertilisations are sometimes necessary to achieve conception, or if IVF is successful spare embryos or eggs might be discarded, practices that are considered by certain religions as unethical.

Despite these objections however, IVF is becoming more popular because it can give many couples the opportunity to overcome infertility and get pregnant. As a treatment it is remarkable, and its constant evolution promises to make it a more feasible option for more couples worldwide.

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